City of Thieves, by David Benioff
This is a great book for an older teen-age boy who already likes to read. Set during the German siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, this novel requires some prior knowledge in order to understand the story. No explanation is given for communism, bolshevism, the Russian secret police, or why the Germans want Leningrad and how the citizens of Leningrad are managing to resist. The story is simply told as a first-person narrative of a seventeen-year-old boy who was there. He chose to stay in Leningrad when his mother and sister left even though he knew the Nazis were coming because he wanted to see what he was made of.
He gets that chance. Be warned. This book is not written for children: it is filled with horror, violence, and sex (no teen-aged boy would be interested in these topics, right?) But it is ultimately a deeply thoughtful story about endurance, courage, friendship, loyalty, caring, and true love, told with a healthy sense of the absurd. The action never lags, and the three main characters are complex and endearing.
It is a finely written and believable story. Of all the books I have read about the siege of Leningrad, this is the one I have liked the best.